Today, I turn the pulpit over to the Holy Father himself, who recently made some surprisingly un-papal observations about trickle-down economics and other financial evils in today’s world.
The following are excerpts from Chapter 2 of his 84-page Evangelii Gaudium, released last month.
U.S. right-wing pundits were predictably unimpressed.
Sarah Palin found it “kind of liberal” and Rush Limbaugh called it “pure Marxism.”
If anything, some of the ideas seem to be snatched right from the pages of Naomi Klein.
Global economics is not even the central theme of the work.
But the bits that do focus on money and power resonate nicely with this consumerism-soaked time of year.
Over to you, Francis:
Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.
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We are in an age of knowledge and information, which has led to new and often anonymous kinds of power.
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Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality …
Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised — they are no longer even a part of it.
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(Trickle-down economics), which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed.
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The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.
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The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.
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The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which becomes the only rule.
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Money must serve, not rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and a return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favours human beings.
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Some simply content themselves with blaming the poor and the poorer countries themselves for their troubles; indulging in unwarranted generalizations, they claim that the solution is an “education” that would tranquilize them, making them tame and harmless. All this becomes even more exasperating for the marginalized in the light of the widespread and deeply rooted corruption found in many countries — in their governments, businesses and institutions — whatever the political ideology of their leaders.
Peter Jackson is The Telegram’s
commentary editor. Email: email@example.com.